How to Use Review Sites the Right Way

By Kyle Taylor, Patrons+
 

Reviews-Graphic

False advertising is alive and well in the high-tech age of the 21st century. For restaurants it takes the form of posting fake positive reviews regarding their food and service. This is appropriately called “astroturfing,” and it is illegal.

Research has shown that with the proliferation of social media review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, more and more people are checking out posted reviews of restaurants and retail stores on major search engines before deciding where to spend their money.

Benefits of positive reviews
The benefits of positive reviews on a restaurateur’s bottom line are being confirmed by a number of academic studies. A 2011 Harvard Business School study found a 5-9 percent increase in restaurant revenue with a one-star Yelp rating increase. A similar study done at Cornell showed an 11 percent increase in room rates after hotels received one more star on TripAdvisor.

The New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, published a press release that declared many companies have “flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch.” The results of his investigation were shared in an NPR article, “Fake Reviewers Get Zero Stars From New York Attorney General,” by Laura Sydell in October 2013. You can find it on www.npr.org.

Nineteen companies in New York have already been found guilty of writing fake online reviews. The Attorney General declared this practice of trying to mislead consumers deserving of stiff penalties. It can even land you in jail. In these cases, the companies had to agree to stop all astroturfing and pay a combined total of more than $350,000.

Schneiderman’s investigation involved agents going undercover to weed out the practice of astroturfing. One pretended to be a yogurt shop owner from Brooklyn when he was contacting search engine optimization (SEO) companies for help with advertising. When he expressed concern about negative reviews on various websites, the SEO companies offered a deal on posting fake positive reviews.

SEO and reputation management companies hire people, often from foreign countries like the Phillipines and Bangladesh, to post fake positive reviews for their clients. They could be paid anywhere from $1 to $10 per review. These companies often require writers to have established review site accounts to add to the credibility.

Other corporations keep the practice of astroturfing internal. US Coachways, a Staten Island bus company, offers $50 gift certificates to any customer who would write a positive review. They also instruct their employees to do the same. What seems like a simple incentive plan could boost positive review numbers artificially. Some review sites do not require people to disclose that they receive compensation for their good opinions.

While businesses that astroturf as a way to boost their reputation should be worried about the crackdown. Rating websites seem happy someone is keeping an eye on things. Popular review site Yelp states it welcomes the crackdown, while denying allegations that they offered to showcase companies’ positive feedback for a fee. This is another form of manipulating consumer confidence by toying with customer opinion. Gartner, a national research firm, believes that 10-15 percent of all online reviews will be fake by the year 2014. Only time will tell if the recent crusade against astroturfing and fabricated reviews will help reduce that number.

Online reputation monitoring for restaurants
There are a couple of takeaways restaurant marketers should keep in mind. First, while it may be tempting to juice the system buying fake reviews, it is illegal. Rather, restaurant owners are encouraged to engage in an active reputation monitoring system. By actively monitoring the most popular review sites, owners can be alerted of all reviews (both positive and negative), make appropriate responses to the negative reviews, contact the reviewer and take the conversation offline, use the occasional negative instances for training and quality control purposes.

Kyle Taylor is the founder of PatronsPlus.com, an Internet marketing services company focused on independent restaurants and retailers that brings big technology to small business. With Patrons Plus you focus on running the restaurant, supporting your customers, and planning the menu — while we take care of the marketing that fills empty seats. For more information visit www.patronsplus.com.

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How to Improve Training in Your Restaurant

By David Scott Peters

Woman-With-ClipboardAs a restaurant coach, I talk with multiple restaurant owners and managers each week. Recently training has been a hot topic.

Poor training leads to poor performance, which then leads to lost customers. You can read about the six main reasons customers don’t come back in this article. For the purposes of this article, let’s look at the top two reasons people don’t come back:

Reason #2 – 14 percent change because they are dissatisfied with the restaurant.

Reason #1 – 68 percent encounter an attitude of indifference or unconcern by one or more employees.

This means that between reasons 1 and 2, 82 percent of ALL the customers that don’t come back to your restaurant are because of the employees you selected, you hired, you trained and you manage on a daily basis.

So how do you fix this? Improve your training.

But before you start training, you need to understand that people learn differently.

1. Visual learners need to see what they are learning.
2. Auditory learners need to hear you explain the task or process being taught.
3. Tactile learners need to actually physically do the task in order to learn it.

You should incorporate all three styles into your training curriculum for two very important reasons. First, because you may not know how each of your trainees learns best and are more likely to have a group of trainees that all have different learning styles. And second, no matter what learning style a trainee learns best with, when you incorporate all three styles into a training, every trainee learns better.

Next you need trainable systems. We here at TheRestaurantExpert.com have already done that for you by providing you out-of-the-box training systems, such as full-service, quick-service and management training systems. In the workshop manual we outline proper cash handling procedures, as well as a myriad of articles that teach everything from budget to cost of goods sold systems. With all of these training systems, shouldn’t it be easy?

My mother Linda, who is an award-winning trainer in the hospitality business, said it best when she said, “I think most people don’t plan and train, they just tell and expect someone to do it. It doesn’t work that way, as you know.”

Which leads me to the keys to planning and training:

1. Identify what tasks you want the trainee to learn and ultimately complete on their own as a part of their day-to-day job. For example, count out a bar drawer at the end of the shift and bring it back to $300.

2. Understand there are adult learning principles to keep in mind when designing a training program. For example, adult learners are often self-directed, they come with a lifetime of knowledge, experiences and opinions, they want to know what’s in it for them and want to feel respected, just to name a few.

3. Use the golden rules to training: PPETF. Prepare yourself (know what you are training), Prepare the learner (let them know what’s in it for them), Explain the task, Try it out (give them the opportunity to try the task), Give feedback/follow-up (let them know when they are doing it right and correct them when they do it wrong, during training and later on the job).

4. Design your training materials. Using the bar drawer example again, you might use the step-by-step system we give you in the workshop manual, but for others you might need visual representations of the drawer and compartments, or you might create short training videos of the task being performed, and/or you might count and re-count a drawer over and over again until the trainee gets it.

5. Implement your training system and adjust your trainings using the feedback you get from the trainee and your visual feedback from their success or lack of success.

Ultimately, remember, if what you are doing isn’t working, CHANGE IT! We’re happy to help you in any way we can. Contact us today.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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Back of house advice: Don’t let food waste eat your revenues

By Willis Getchell, CEC, M. Ed.

Food cost can be the 600-pound gorilla sitting in the corner of your operation, demanding constant attention. After you’ve priced your menu effectively, checked the standardized recipes, worked your vendors for the best price and looked closely at your sales mix, there are still a lot of variables that need to be examined, primarily — food waste. Are you and your managers aware of the amount of wasted food product or how it’s created? This month, let’s take a look at some key areas where waste begins and I’ll share some solutions to address the issue quickly and perhaps regain some lost revenue.

I suggest using an approach similar to HACCP, hopefully, we are all aware of the basic tenets of HACCP. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, which was developed by Nestle for NASA, it breaks down the flow of food through your operation from the back door to the table and analyzes each point or step. But, instead of just looking at critical points of food safety, I use the same concept to look at each point for waste. I call it Waste Analysis Critical Control Point (WACCP).

Who signed for this?

Check every box of each delivery to make sure of the proper amount and quality. The raw products used to create revenue arrive at your back door. If the loading dock or receiving person is busy or overloaded, it is possible products are signed for incorrectly, resulting in short weights, incorrect invoice prices and sub-par quality, automatically reducing profits. If the people who regularly sign in deliveries accept poor or mediocre product, that’s what your purveyors will continue to send.

Also, remember shelf life makes a big difference in the yield per case, and yield connects directly to your food cost. Be sure to buy the right products and store them properly.

Watch that dial

Monitor all coolers daily and set up a preventive maintenance program. The shelf life of perishable food comes into play not only on the receiving end, but also in the kitchen and bar refrigerators. Daily cooler temperature checks and an effective preventive maintenance program will lead to positive bottom line results.

Fines from health code violations will also nibble away at revenue if your cooler isn’t holding products below the required 40 degrees. Moldy food can spread food-borne bacteria around to other items via the fans, so it’s important to keep refrigeration cold and clean. To help keep cold air inside, purchase heavy-duty plastic curtains for the walk-ins, even if they do knock the cook’s hats off!

Where’s the beef?

Train the kitchen staff to know what yield to expect from each food shipment. In my experience, most food waste issues come from the prep and cooking stage of the operation. An untrained kitchen staff can rob you of profits by building a higher cost for each menu item. Putting eight shrimp instead of six on a popular pasta dish, cutting steaks and fish too heavy, trimming too much fat and cutting vegetables the wrong size can have wasteful results.

Work to create standard recipes and follow them. Managers should perform spot checks, not only in the prep area, but on the line as well. Invest in a vacuum packer — a valuable piece of equipment. At least two to three points of food cost can be saved by using the vacuum packer for high-end items. And, in some operations, you may be able to cut meat once a week, streamlining production and labor cost.

That’s medium rare?        

Educate the staff about the real cost of mistakes. Line cooks mess up, so do poorly trained service staff. Mistakes in ordering and overcooking cause the food cost to rise and revenue to shrink. How many orders are voided each meal period? How often does the kitchen have to re-fire an order because the server didn’t listen to the guest?

Train the front and back of house staffs to think in terms of revenue, not cost, then track the amount of wasted food in this way to measure performance. Show them that not only is the cost lost when an overcooked steak is re-done, but also the money that would have been made. Cooks and servers already compete over covers each night; why not add waste reduction dollars to the challenge?

Push the salmon

Reevaluate your sales mix for items that end up regularly wasted. In the end, sales drive food cost. Menu mix plays a role in the management of your food waste. Menu items that don’t sell or are not cross-utilized end up in the trash or fed to employees. Change menu items or prices to create a more even sales line to the menu. Cross-utilization is a vital step to controlling inventory and curbing waste.

In the always challenging arena of controlling food cost, following your inventory from the back door to the guest is essential. Design a program for your operation using my WACCP. Use it to create and maintain standards to keep your profits from wasting away.

 

Willis Getchell is a
 Certified Executive Chef
 with experience running 
his own restaurant and
 managing corporate and 
resort settings. He now
 shares his 30-plus years of well-seasoned
 experience at The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix. He is a recognized leader in his profession, receiving numerous honors, including the Institute’s 2006 Award of Excellence and the Valley of the Sun Chef’s Association Chef-of-the-Year award.

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Cutting costs and increasing cash flow the right way

By David Scott Peters

Operating a restaurant has not changed much fundamentally over the past 50 years, but running a profitable restaurant has.

Why is that? There are many factors that have contributed to this, such as the price of product rising to record levels, high workers’ compensation insurance rates, rising liability insurance rates, new minimum wage laws, skyrocketing rents — the list goes on and on and on.

So what is a restaurant owner to do? How can you continue to operate profitably when every expense seems to be doing nothing but going up?

The first thing you must do is have the proper mental approach to this challenge and that is: “have a top-line mentality with a bottom-line efficiency.”

You have to work on increasing sales work and on decreasing your costs at all times.

If increasing sales is your only focus, you might fill your restaurant and do record sales, but you’re probably losing money faster than it’s coming in the door because your restaurant operates inefficiently.

If cutting costs is your only focus, you can literally cut yourself out of business because you start buying cheaper ingredients, start cutting labor and can’t provide your guests with great service. You can create a situation where you have an impressive profit margin of 25 percent or more, but if you have very few customers actually dining in your restaurant, there still isn’t enough money to pay your bills.

This is why you MUST focus your efforts on increasing sales and decreasing costs at the same time. And one does not come before the other.

I want to help you focus on the bottom-line efficiency.

To get started, the first thing you need to do is grab your profit and loss (P&L) statement. This is your report card on how you’re doing as an operator. It’s also your crystal ball when it comes to making more money! (For the focus of this article we are strictly going to look at expenses.)

Every restaurant owner knows that you can have your greatest impact on your restaurant’s profitability if you first attack your prime cost, or what I like to call your controllable expenses. These are expenses in the direct control of management on a daily basis: cost of goods sold and labor cost. Who you hire, how you train, schedule, buy, prep, serve, etc., has everything to do with how these numbers fall in line.

While every restaurant is looking for the proverbial home run when it comes to reducing the cost of running their restaurant, such as reducing food cost or labor cost by 1 – 5 points, the truth is that it’s a combination of the little victories that add up to winning the war.

Go down your general and administrative expenses on your P&L. Look at every line item and ask yourself, “how can I reduce this expense without compromising my restaurant operation?”

Here are just a few line items and ideas to get you started:

1)    Garbage collection: Is your kitchen breaking down every box before they throw them away in the dumpster or utilizing a recycle bin, if available. Maximize how much garbage you can fit inside your dumpster and reduce the number of pickups your restaurant requires.

Do you use a lot of fry oil in your restaurant? If so, keeping the above in mind, you may want to look into installing a bulk oil system. This will not only reduce your dumpster fees because you’re no longer filling it with fry oil boxes, it can reduce your risk of injury due to removing old fry oil, ultimately reducing your workers’ compensation expense.

2)    Linens: All too often restaurant owners are getting proverbially “screwed” by their linen company. Make sure you read your contract. Are they counting linens or just charging what they think you use and lose? Often getting bids from other linen companies can drive your contract price down.

Lock up all of your linens in a storage locker. At the beginning of each shift issue each line cook a dry and a wet rag, apron or chef coat. Don’t allow them to just take what they think they need. You’re getting charged through the nose for each rag they grab.

Are you using table cloths in your restaurant? I had a member save almost $40,000 a year when she decided to spend $8,000 on new table tops and get rid of table cloths.

3)    Credit Card Expenses: Credit card companies give their customers neat benefits to use their cards, such as airline miles or cash back. Do you know who pays for those benefits? You, the merchant, pay. Do your best to get a handle on these extra fees that are impossible to reconcile. Look at your credit card processor to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

4)    Paper Products: Here’s an expense that just keeps going up. All that Styrofoam is made with petroleum and as it goes up so do our prices. On top of that, we spend all of this time monitoring our proteins and vegetables from our distributors and barely look at paper products. And the distributor knows that. This is one of their greatest profit centers. While you’re keeping them honest on food, they’re sticking it to you on paper, chemicals and cleaning supplies.

Work with your distributor for the best paper products for your restaurant at the best prices. They often have their own paper programs that can help you reduce your paper cost by more than 40 percent!

If you’re using logo napkins, you can reduce your costs by giving customers plain napkins when they request more. You’ve already done the branding thing, why give them the most expensive ones if they’re just going to dirty them up with wing sauce?

Keep in mind that every time you find a way to save a little money every month, you’re on your way to making a lot of money. Think about it. If you save $100 a month getting on a paper program, $150 a month by switching credit card processors, $25 a month by reducing the number of garbage pickups and $100 a month by controlling your linen usage, you’re making an extra $4,500 a year. And in a business where the average restaurant makes a nickel on every dollar in sales, every penny counts!

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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9 Things to Offer to Attract Good Restaurant Employees

By David Scott Peters

One of the key lessons I’ve learned over my years in the restaurant business is that not everyone works for you just for money. Money is a factor, but people are looking for much more.

So how do you provide the “much more?”

Many years ago now, restaurant coach Fred Langley best articulated what you have to strive for if you want to attract and keep the very best people on your team. He said you have to become the “Employer of Choice.” So what does that mean?

Without going into the whole explanation behind clinical psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s, “Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” let’s cover the key factors beyond money that he says motivate people to work and work hard:

  1. Supervision – Make sure you have a management team that coaches employees to success, understands what makes each employee unique and is able to push their buttons to get the best of your people.
  2. Fair compensation – While you don’t have to be at the top of your market’s pay scale, you certainly cannot be at the bottom.
  3. Good working conditions – Make sure you have a clean restaurant, that you have all the right equipment and tools for your employees to do their jobs, and make safety a priority.
  4. Interpersonal relationships – Avoid at all costs having a management team that thinks all of their people are stupid and treats them like crap. Remember, this is a people business and it all starts with your internal customers.
  5. Recognition – Look for people doing things right in your restaurant and give them kudos when you see it. It’s easy to find people doing something wrong. When you focus on the good things, you create a positive work environment where people want to continue to please you vs. just waiting for the scolding.
  6. Responsibility – Sometimes you have great employees who have been with you for many years who NEVER want to be a part of the management team. Yet, they are willing to do more. Look to teach and assign them tasks that make the company better and get more done. Allow them to be a more valued asset on the team and they will be motivated to do more.
  7. Achievement – With responsibility there are often measurable results. When your team sees how what they do has a direct positive impact on the business, they get a real sense of achievement, which makes them want more.
  8. Advancement – Remember money is not the only thing people are looking for when they join your management team. Many want to know that there is a clear path to promotion and advancement in your company. Whether it’s moving up the management ladder, moving into the next better paying line position or gaining the skills that make them more valuable in their career, there needs to be a clear path to advancement that’s based on doing a good job, not who you are sucking up to.
  9. Work itself – I remember my first jobs in the restaurant business were washing dishes, and I hated it. It felt thankless to me, and I was probably not mature enough to want to work that hard as a young teen. Moving up in my career, I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind when managing employees. You need to make sure the job, no matter what level in your organization, is rewarding.

High employee turnover is expensive and disruptive to any business. With training and systems in place, you start with employees who know what their job is and what is expected of them. But to keep them long term, you have to be an “employer of choice.” If you properly address the majority of these factors, you’ll be one!

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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Servers’ Bad Behaviors that Hurt Your Restaurant

By Willis Getchell

Although I spend most of my time in the back of the house, I spend a fair amount of time eating in restaurants. We all know that the reputation of a restaurant can be made or broken in the dining room. Despite the reputation of the chef and the restaurant, or how fantastic the food tastes, service brings the customers where they are made to feel special.

While on a business trip recently, I had a meal in a restaurant that brought this concept home to me. I was enjoying a delicious dinner with attentive service. Two-thirds of the way through my entrée, the server approached and set the check on the table stating “you don’t want dessert, do you?” In the space of those few seconds, she undid all the good will she had previously created, missed the opportunity to sell dessert and maybe more, and drastically lessened her tip.

The acronym TIPS stands for To Insure Prompt Service. This server’s behavior made me think about other things that wait staff can do to hurt their own tip. Here is a list of the top behaviors likely to insure the reduction of a tip left by your customers.

1. The dirty server. A server who is not properly groomed, or who is in a uniform that is wrinkled, dirty or faded. I am reminded of a waiter in a well-known fine dining restaurant, whose dirty fingernails made it difficult to enjoy anything on my plate. Knowing the extent to which servers come into contact with the food made me question the cleanliness of more than just the waiter.

2. A server with visible tattoos and multiple piercings, especially tongue studs! I used a few waiters from a temporary agency to help serve a large party that we were having when I was the executive chef at the Wyndham in Phoenix. One of the servers they sent literally had tattoos all over his body! He had artwork down every single finger. There was no way that I could use him in the dining room. He ended up spending the evening washing dishes.

3. The heavily perfumed server. Let me smell the food spice and not Polo. Heavy aromas of perfume, cologne or after-shave are out of place in the dining room. I want to smell my food, not the waiter or waitress. Please leave the strong colognes at home.

4. The bothered server. This is the waiter who treats me like a bother, rather than a guest. This waiter makes no eye contact and has an attitude of aggravation. “What do ya want?” From this person there is a total lack of a warm and sincere greeting.

5. The server addressing the whole table by saying, “How you guys doing?” Especially when I’m dining with my wife – obviously not a ‘guy’.

6. The curt waiter or waitress with the preconceived judgment that a customer will not spend sufficient money to be worthy of attention. The memory here is of a trip two friends of mine made after a movie for a late night dessert and coffee. They told the hostess their intent and were seated. As soon as the waitress heard the reason for visiting that night, she brought over two glasses of water and slammed them on the table saying, “What do you want?”

7. The manager who puts the customer in an embarrassing position. In observing the reaction to the waitress above (number 6), the manager came over to their table to ask if everything was OK. When they complained about the rude treatment by the waitress, he began to yell at and berate the waitress right there in the middle of the dining room. A few minutes later, the waitress returned to my friends’ table, tearfully stating that she was sorry, and then giving a number of excuses, including that she was having a very bad day. I didn’t think she could have put herself in a worse light, but her string of excuses for her bad behavior did just that. Even if her husband had left her, her dog had died and she had gotten into a car accident on the way to work, her customers were just there for dessert and coffee.

8. The haughty waiter. Two young women went to a restaurant for an after-theatre supper. The restaurant was well known for cannelloni. The ladies decided that they would split an order of cannelloni because it was so late at night. When ordering, one lady mumbled that they wanted to split an order of canne… The waiter obviously did not understand what she had ordered because they received two small slivers of cantaloupe. When one of the ladies told the waiter about the mix-up, he became very angry and refused to take care of their table

9. The overly informal waiter. This person actually sat down in the booth opposite mine to take my order. It might be fitting in a Red Robin, but is it right for your restaurant?

10. The unhelpful server who is so unfamiliar with the food menu, liquor selection and wine list that he or she is unable to make suggestions. The guest cannot always know what the restaurant does best. “I don’t know” isn’t helpful here. Where’s the suggestive selling?

11. Bringing the check before you are finished eating and saying, “You don’t want any dessert, do you?”

12. Picking up the check with the money and saying, “Do you require change?”

13. Bringing back the change in large bills, rather than in a form conducive to a proper tip.

Astute owners and managers must be on a constant lookout for these gaffes in service. It’s not just the server’s tip, but the reputation of the restaurant as well.

Willis Getchell is a 
Certified Executive Chef with
experience running his own
restaurant and managing
corporate and resort
settings. He now shares
his 30-plus years of well-
seasoned experience at The
International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix. He is a recognized leader in his profession, receiving numerous honors, including the Institute’s 2006 Award of Excellence and the Valley of the Sun Chef’s Association Chef-of-the-Year award.

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Simple Ways to Cut Food Costs – Part 2

By Fred Langley 

Food Costs ImageLast week, I outlined portioning techniques as a way to trim food costs without cutting labor because not having enough staff can be a disaster.

This week I’ve outlined ways to stretch your food dollars. Making the most of the products you are selling stretches your dollars invested and earns you more in return. As with last week’s tips, you don’t have to use all of these tips, but the more you find that work for you in your restaurant, the more money you’ll save.

Make your dollars count

  • Use fruits and vegetables that are in season; they not only taste better, they are a better price.
  • Maximize the use of product, if you are offering asparagus in the spring, use the bottom woody part to make a creamy asparagus soup. Food cost on the soup will be next to nothing and your yield on the asparagus will be nearly 100 percent.
  • Use cabbage, always inexpensive, to add flavor and stretch the filling of pork or seafood used to make wonderful and cheap appetizers.
  • Save your meat scraps for specials or grind the meat into your burger.
  • Double the volume of your ground beef my making meatloaf sliders and meatballs for a great happy hour offering.
  • If you already have a selection of pasta dishes, add risottos to your menu.
  • Substitute less expensive almonds and peanuts for other expensive nuts like walnuts and pecans.
  • If you are serving a 6 oz portion of fish at night, make a great sandwich with 3 oz for lunchtime. Make the dish at half the cost and two-thirds the price.
  • Purchase whole chickens. It is one of the easiest things to butcher and you end up with chicken stock, leg and thigh meat for an appetizer, four chicken wings and two breasts.
  • Take your best cost dishes and recreate them to influence your mix even more.
  • Make other types of pesto because basil and pine nuts are so expensive. For example, make cilantro pesto, but substitute orange juice for lemon juice and almonds for pine nuts.
  • Buy fish that is in season. For example, Halibut’s seasons is spring and summer, making out of season purchases too expensive for an inferior product. But Mahi Mahi is good year round choice.
  • Make bread! It is not as hard as it seems and will save you a ton.

Attacking food cost is a great way to lower your prime cost while still supporting your labor needs. Let us help you and schedule your next coaching call today!

Fred Langley is the director of operations and restaurant coach for TheRestaurantExpert.com. As a former chef and restaurant owner, Fred found a new passion in helping other restaurant owners find success with systems and now focuses on it full time.

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4 Things Restaurant Owners Should Never Say – Redux

I speak no evil - Businessman and copyspaceEveryone has a phrase that when they hear it, they just want to go nuts. For me, there are four phrases that are like nails on a chalkboard. And I probably hear one of these phrases on a weekly basis as I travel the country giving speeches, consulting and coaching restaurant owners and managers just like you.

Read more about the four phrases on each of the blog posts below:

  1. “I don’t need a budget. I know my numbers.”
  2. “I can’t get my managers to do it.”
  3. “You don’t understand… our restaurant is different.”
  4. “Yes, but it takes too long.”

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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Simple Ways to Cut Food Costs – Part 1

By Fred Langley

Food Costs ImageWhen you are struggling to bring down your prime cost number, it is always easier to focus on your cost of goods sold rather than cutting labor. Not having enough staff can be a disaster in your restaurant, but making the most of the products you are selling stretches your dollars invested and earns you more in return.

Use the following tips as a guide to pad your bottom line without cutting labor. You don’t have to use all of these tips, but the more you find that work for you in your restaurant, the more money you’ll save.

Portioning techniques

  • If you run a 30 percent food cost and over portion by 10 percent, you will raise your food cost to 33 percent.
  • Poly bags are to be used for everything possible. Even if it is cheap pasta, it will keep your dishes consistent.
  • Use properly sized ladles and dishers for all sauces, starches, etc. Go smaller than the portion because staff will over fill them.
  • Always use measuring cups and understand that eight fluid ounces is not the same as eight ounces by weight.
  • Make sure to always have a properly calibrated scale. A pound of butter will register 16 ounces if your scale is working properly.
  • Reusable plastic deli cups are great for stacking and they’re waterproof, so you can use them to portion fish.
  • Use standardized vessels if you are portioning on the fly.
  • Do some portion testing with the staff. Make the dish you are questioning in three different sizes, if the larger portion is the way to go for the dish, just price accordingly. Avoid cutting back on those dishes that the staff feel should be bigger; they will just make it bigger when you are not looking.
  • Make the investment and get smaller china if your costs are out of control. Cooks will fill whatever size plate is in front of them. Get smaller china especially if you have a buffet.
  • Have photos of the perfect plate to go with your recipe cards and keep them in a binder.
  • If you discover that portioning is a problem across the board with your whole menu, start to make changes systematically. Do not change everything across the board all at once.
  • Cut your prawns in half, long ways, before cooking. They will corkscrew and take up just as much if not more volume than a single

Next week I’ll give you more tips for lowering your food costs, focusing on making the most of the food you buy.

Fred Langley is the director of operations and restaurant coach for TheRestaurantExpert.com. As a former chef and restaurant owner, Fred found a new passion in helping other restaurant owners find success with systems and now focuses on it full time.

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How to Grow Your Employees into Management

By David Scott Peters

Spout-in-DirtI tell all the restaurant owners I meet: You need help. You cannot do everything we teach on your own.

And really, it’s pretty simple to say, “I need help.” The challenge is getting the help.

Here are the common mistakes independent restaurant operators make when it comes to hiring help and what to do instead.

Mistake No. 1 – hire a chain manager

As an independent operator, it’s tempting to hire a chain restaurant manager because you think they’ll bring their experience with systems to your restaurant. In the last decade I have helped literally thousands of restaurant owners, and I don’t think I can put my finger on any more than one restaurant where this decision has worked.

Why does it fail EVERY TIME? Because chain managers only know how to do what they are told to do. They don’t have the flexibility or interest in setting up and adjusting your systems.

Instead, let the candidates identify themselves without knowing they are interviewing for a position in management.

Post on your employee bulletin board that you are looking for people who would like to help you with special projects, such as entering recipe costing cards, setting up your inventory systems, etc. Let them come to you. You get them moving on the special projects, which gets the work done you needed done anyway, but you also get to see if they have the skill sets and work ethic you need in a manager.

If they don’t do a good job for you, your worst case scenario is they just don’t do any more special projects for you. The best case is you offer those who prove themselves one to two shifts a week as a manager in training (MIT) or shift supervisor.

Mistake No. 2 – talk them into management

Not everyone is built for management. Most operators think their best server, bartender or cook would make a great manager. In most cases, the answer is NO. For front-of-house people, it’s difficult to take a promotion and give up the cash and flexibility of that line position. And oftentimes being the best means they don’t have a lot of patience for those who just don’t get it.

Instead, have 2–3 in training at all times. Don’t settle for one person to promote to manager in training (MIT) or shift supervisor. Have two or three going at the same time. Train them in the skills they need and the tasks they need to accomplish to be successful. This way you allow the best to continue to show you they are willing to do what it takes to move up in your organization. Then, pick the most qualified. From that group of MITs, pick the best candidate to become an assistant manager and teach them. When they have shown you they can do the job, then promote them and pay them more.

Mistake No. 3 – anoint the princess or prince to supreme ruler

Desperate to fill your vacancy at general manager (GM), you take an unqualified person on your team and anoint them GM. Promoting them to GM doesn’t prepare them for the position. It doesn’t teach them what they have to do. It doesn’t mean they can lead the team. All it means is you are going to pay them more money and odds are not in your favor that they will succeed. In most instances, they disappoint you because they just weren’t ready for the level of responsibility, so they end up quitting or getting fired.

Instead, with your 2-3 MITs, promote them ONLY when they are ready. While they may be doing the tasks of the GM, they are not independent yet. You still need to be over their shoulders inspecting and training. Once they truly have mastered the tasks and demonstrated the skills needed, it’s time to promote them.

So the ultimate solution is to grow your managers into the position, don’t throw them into failure.

 

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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